Michigan State 1
In the final minute of the game, as Michigan played two men down, the noise from the near-capacity Yost Ice Arena crowd crescendoed to match the intensity of the closing moments.
With the help of its maize-clad fans, No. 7 Michigan held onto its 2-1 advantage to beat No. 6 Michigan State last night for its sixth consecutive win. It was the Wolverines second straight victory over their intrastate rival. Michigan had been winless in its previous nine matches with the Spartans.
After surrendering the game’s opening goal, the Wolverines responded with two power-play tallies to surge ahead for the victory.
Senior T.J. Hensick’s goal at the 6:28 mark of the third period proved to be the game-winner.
Hensick received a Kevin Porter pass in the slot, and the senior made the spectacular look casual as he drifted in on Spartan goalie Jeff Lerg and lifted the puck over Lerg’s glove hand.
“You can’t coach that – but you can recruit it,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
Michigan (7-2-0 CCHA, 10-3-0 overall) clung to the lead under heavy Spartan pressure in the game’s final five minutes. With less than two minutes remaining, defenseman Jason Dest took an interference penalty, and Michigan State (4-4-1, 6-4-1) pulled its goalie to mount a 6-on-4 advantage for the final 78 seconds.
Concluding a strong all-around game, Michigan goalie Billy Sauer stood his ground and sealed the win, stopping every shot the Spartans fired at him.
With the puck cleared out of the zone for the final time, Sauer skated toward Michigan’s bench with his glove hand held high, meeting his teammates at the blue line when the final horn sounded.
The moment was a culmination of the sophomore’s impressive month.
“I’m feeling great, and I think the team in front of me is feeling really good,” Sauer said.
The six-game winning streak is Sauer’s career best and the longest for the Wolverines since they won 12 straight during the 2004-05 season.
Despite dominating play early in the match, Michigan trailed after Michigan State forward Tim Kennedy put on a puck-handling clinic during his end-to-end trip to the Michigan net early in the second period.
Kennedy collected the puck in his own defensive zone, then split Hensick and defenseman Chris Summers before crossing the Michigan blue line.
Once in the offensive zone, Kennedy made a nifty move around Dest before skating in all alone on Sauer and patiently putting the puck into the net.
Despite giving up the goal less than a minute into the second stanza, the Wolverines didn’t lose any energy.
Even with far more scoring chances than Michigan State at that point, Michigan could not find the back of the net.
It was Michigan State’s continuous march to the penalty box that helped Michigan come back.
It appeared Michigan would get on the board when it received a power play midway through the second period.
Multiple times during the man-advantage situation, the Wolverines were poised to beat Lerg but couldn’t finish the job.
When the power play ended, Hensick swung his stick at the puck in frustration as it sailed through the air. Fittingly, he whiffed.
But Michigan State seemed intent on giving Michigan chances to tie the score. Just seconds after his team killed off one penalty, Spartan forward Tim Crowder was called for high sticking.
And the Michigan power play finally finished the job it started during its previous opportunity.
Hensick sent a cross-ice pass to Porter who one-timed the puck past the diminutive Lerg to tie the score at one.
The Wolverines ride their six-game win streak into this weekend’s College Hockey Showcase when they will travel to face Wisconsin and Minnesota.